Headlines for Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Kansas Residents Have Higher Taxes but Less Gun Regulation
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas residents are paying higher taxes on cigarettes, groceries and other consumer goods but no longer have to obtain a state permit to carry a concealed gun. The tax increases and concealed carry change are among a raft of new state laws that took effect Wednesday. Other new laws help veterans, tighten rules for state cash assistance recipients and ease restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol. Fantasy sports leagues are now legal, and tuition increases at state universities will be capped this fall and next fall. The state's sales tax has increased to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent, and the cigarette tax has jumped by 50 cents a pack to $1.29. The tax hikes prevent a budget deficit for the fiscal year that started Wednesday.
Kansas Supreme Court Stays Lower Court's Order on School Aid
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has put on hold a lower court's order for the state to immediately increase aid to public schools by roughly $50 million. The high court issued a one-page order Tuesday, a day after a request from Attorney General Derek Schmidt. A three-judge panel in Shawnee County District Court last week invalidated key parts of a school funding law enacted by the Republican-dominated Legislature this year. The lower-court judges ordered Kansas to provide more money to districts using the state's previous school funding formula. The new school funding law scrapped the old per-student formula for distributing aid in favor of predictable grants for each districts. The lower-court panel said the changes violated the state constitution by not providing equal educational opportunities for all students.
All Counties in Kansas Allowing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Same-sex couples can get marriage licenses in all 105 Kansas counties. But the state on Tuesday wasn't yet allowing gay and lesbian spouses to change their last names on driver's licenses or file joint income tax returns. Several officials said Governor Sam Brownback's administration is still studying the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared same-sex marriage legal across the nation. The Republican governor supports Kansas' ban on gay marriage. He has noted repeatedly that voters in 2005 overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state constitution to reinforce it. Before the latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling, same-sex marriage licenses were being issued in 21 of 31 judicial districts covering 61 counties. As of Tuesday, all 31 districts said they were issuing same-sex marriage licenses or were prepared to do so.
Kansas AG Plans to Appeal Ruling Blocking Anti-Abortion Law
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt plans to appeal a state district court judge's ruling blocking the state's first-in-the-nation ban on a common second trimester abortion procedure. Attorneys representing Schmidt filed a notice Wednesday in Shawnee County District Court that they intend to ask the Kansas Court of Appeals to overturn the ruling last week from Judge Larry Hendricks. The law was model legislation from the National Right to Life Committee and was to take effect Wednesday. It would have barred doctors from using forceps, clamps or similar instruments on a living fetus to remove it from the womb in pieces. The Center for Reproductive Rights sued Schmidt on behalf of two Kansas abortion providers. Hendricks ruled that the law placed too much of a burden on women seeking abortions.
Drug Investigations Lead to Surge in Kansas Wiretap Orders
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government report shows a surge in the use by authorities of wiretaps last year in Kansas for drug investigations. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts issued its annual report to Congress Wednesday. It reports that the number of wiretaps nationwide decreased slightly in 2014 compared to the previous year. But in Kansas, federal judges last year authorized 29 wiretaps, compared to just five a year earlier. The Kansas number is also higher when compared against previous reports dating at least as far back as 2009. All the wiretaps approved last year in Kansas involved narcotics cases. In addition to the 29 wiretaps approved by federal judges here, the report shows that three other wiretaps were authorized last year by state judges in Finney and Saline counties.
72 Counties Removed from Drought Status in Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state has removed 72 counties from drought status thanks to recent rain in Kansas. Governor Sam Brownback's office said in a release Tuesday that for the past year all 105 counties have either been under drought emergency, warning or watch status. A new order removes 72 counties from drought status and downgrades 33 into a watch status. Tracy Streeter, director of the Kansas Water Office and chair of the Governor's Drought Response Team, says drought conditions can return quickly.
High Number of Rabies Cases Reported in Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas residents are being warned to be cautious around skunks during an uptick in rabies cases. Kansas State University's veterinary diagnostic laboratory says 70 rabies cases have been reported this year — the same number as all of last year. The Wichita Eagle reports skunks accounted for almost 75 percent of the rabies cases. A Kansas State lab diagnostician says most of the other cases probably began with a rabid skunk biting another animal. Starting in 1997, the Kansas State lab saw a rise in rabies cases, peaking at 164 cases in 2003 before declining over the past decade. The last time someone in Kansas died from rabies was in 1968.
Kansas Utility Agrees to Refund $10M, Drop Electric Rates
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The largest electric utility in Kansas has agreed to refund $10 million to its customers and decrease its rates slightly to settle a complaint filed by state regulators with the federal government. Topeka-based Westar Energy and the Kansas Corporation Commission announced the settlement Wednesday. It would a resolve a complaint filed by the KCC last year with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The Kansas commission had alleged that Westar was charging unjustly high transmission rates. The federal commission must approve the settlement. Under the settlement, Westar will make the refunds and decrease its rates by about $8 million a year. The company estimates that most residential customers would save 40 cents a month. But Westar is also asking the Kansas commission to boost other rates by $152 million.
2 Dead After Shooting in Kansas City Suburb
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Police in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, Kansas, say two people have died in a shooting. Officers who responded to the scene Tuesday evening say they found one victim injured in the street and a second person dead in a nearby house. The injured man later died at a hospital. Investigators say they're processing a "very large area" involving several crime scenes. The Kansas City Star reports that police identified the victims as 18-year-old Velik L. Henderson, of Overland Park, and 19-year-old Trevon D. Anderson, of Kansas City, Kansas. Overland Park Police Chief Frank Donchez says the shootings don't appear random.
Hutchinson Emergency Shelter Closes for Lack of Grant
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — An emergency overnight shelter in Hutchinson has closed with little warning because it didn't receive a federal grant. Officials with NOEL Lodge, a shelter operated by New Beginnings Inc., said they are trying to find a way to reopen with private donations. The shelter closed Tuesday and five shelter staff members were let go. The Hutchinson News reports the Housing and Urban Development usually announces Emergency Solutions Grant awards before July 1. The shelter's grant ended Tuesday and officials had not heard about a renewed grant. Manager Juan Gonzales said the organization will see if it can get support from the community and reopen. Gonzales says the shelter housed 17 people and often had to turn people away.
Northrop Grumman Event Aimed at Kansas Aviation Suppliers
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Representatives from Northrop Grumman will be in Wichita this week for a supplier's symposium aimed at the bolstering the aviation industry in Kansas. The event kicks off with opening remarks at noon Thursday at the National Center for Aviation Training in Wichita. U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) will attend along with Gloria Pualani, the company's director for global supplier diversity. Nearly 100 Kansas suppliers are expected to attend and meet with Northrop Grumman representatives. Moran's office says in a news release that the company already does business with more than 180 Kansas firms, and has committed more than $132 million worth of business with Kansas suppliers. It employs more than 640 Kansans at facilities in Olathe, Fort Leavenworth and Topeka.
Kansas Woman Reaches $132K Settlement over Gun Sale
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas gun dealer sued for selling the shotgun a man used to kill himself and his son has reached a $132,000 settlement. Elizabeth Shirley sued the owners of a Baxter Springs gun shop, claiming negligence in preventing the 2003 sale of the gun to her husband's grandmother when her husband, Russell Graham, a felon, was at the sale. Graham used the shotgun to kill his son and himself that day. The Kansas Supreme Court later ruled firearms dealers must use the highest degree of care in preventing gun sales to felons, sending the case back to Cherokee County. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence said Wednesday the case was settled. A lawyer for the gun dealer says the settlement was for $132,000 and his clients admit no liability.
Man Accused of Threatening Children, Dog with Gun in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man has been arrested after police say he pointed a gun at five children playing with their dog in Wichita. A man in his 50s was arrested Monday on suspicion of aggravated assault with a firearm. According to police Lieutenant Steve Kenney, five children between the ages of 5 and 17 were playing with a dog in a fenced backyard around 8:30 pm Monday. Kenney said the children told officers that a neighbor who was angry about the noise the dog was making climbed on a fence and said he would shoot it if they did not get it to keep quiet. Authorities said the man pointed a gun at the dog and the children before a woman took the children inside.
June Economic Report Affirms Slow Growth Ahead in Midwest
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A report on a June survey underscores previous survey signs that slower economic growth likely is ahead for nine Midwestern and Plains states. The survey report issued Wednesday says the overall Mid-America Business Conditions Index rose to 53.0 from 50.4 in May and 52.7 in April. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says "improvements at the national level in housing, retail sales and hiring pushed supply managers to raise their expectations about future economic conditions." The survey results from supply managers are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests economic growth, while a score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
Topeka Man Sentenced to 44 Years in Prison for Raping Girl
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man accused of kidnapping and raping a 5-year-old girl has been sentenced to nearly 44 years in prison. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports 21-year-old Al'Ryon Perkins was also sentenced Tuesday to 3 years of post-release supervision. Perkins pleaded guilty in September to several charges including aggravated indecent liberties with a child younger than 14 and two counts of aggravated burglary. He denied kidnapping and raping the victim in a statement Tuesday. Authorities say Perkins broke into a residence in 2010 to steal marijuana, but took a cash box instead and then returned to carry a child outside, where he sexually assaulted her. Perkins was 17 at the time, but the case was moved from juvenile court because of the nature of the crime.
Salina Man Gets 9 Life Sentences for Sex Offenses
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina man convicted of rape and indecent liberties with a child has been sentenced to more than nine consecutive life sentences. The Salina Journal reports that 41-year-old Glenn D. Lippard was sentenced Wednesday in Saline County District Court. He was found guilty in March of rape, aggravated indecent liberties with a child and indecent liberties with a child. Judge Jared Johnson imposed life sentences with a minimum of 25 years served for four counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child and five counts of rape, and ordered the sentences served one after another. Johnson also imposed an additional nine years and 10 months in prison and ordered that if Lippard is ever released from prison, he'll be subject to lifetime electronic monitoring and lifetime sex offender registration.
Young Royals Fan Who Fought Cancer Has Died
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 7-year-old Kansas boy whose fight against cancer and love of the Kansas City Royals drew national attention has died. The family of Noah Wilson of Olathe announced he died Tuesday night. He suffered from Ewing's sarcoma, a bone cancer. KMBC-TV reports that Noah had his final radiation treatment in mid-June and was considered cancer-free. His family learned in recent days that he had leukemia and he began more chemotherapy Monday. During the Royals' run to the World Series last year, a family friend started an online movement to get Noah to a World Series game. Former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre offered the family tickets and prime seats to a game. They were treated to a special day, meeting several players and walking on the field.